IN BALANCE — Health Benefits Of Congee

February 2, 2018

Aleisha Anderson

Congee, also known as “zhou” or “jook”, is a grain-based medicinal porridge served for centuries in traditional East Indian and Chinese homes. Zhou is a common meal eaten daily throughout Asia. When you incorporate it as a regular dish, you will see improvement in digestive functions and an increase in overall energy.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) recognizes the health benefits of rice congee. It can either be eaten alone, with garnishes, or with the addition of healing herbs. Medicinally, congee is used to promote good health and strong digestion.

According to TCM, because this simple porridge is easily digested and assimilated, it harmonizes digestion and also supplements blood and qi (life energy). Congee can relieve inflammation and nourish the immune system.

Its therapeutic properties can be enhanced by cooking the rice with grains, vegetables, meats, or herbs, or by adding them as a garnish. The rice water strengthens the spleen-pancreas digestive center, helping the additions to the rice to be more completely assimilated and enhancing their healing properties.

Zhou is inexpensive, simple, and easy to make. It has historically been known as a poor man’s food because a small amount of rice could be cooked with more water to create more broth to feed more people. There is a standard ratio of 1 part rice to 6-10 parts water or broth, cooked for 2-6 hours. “Bai Zhou” refers to an alternative preparation method where leftover rice is cooked with four parts water. More water is better than less and longer cooking times create stronger medicinal properties.

Flavoring the porridge can be done meticulously or with whatever is available in the pantry. The trick to making delicious congee is not obliterating the flavor of the rice and adding garnishes without stirring and mixing everything together.

Some common ingredients used to flavor congee are chicken, pork, green onions, ginger, tamari, coconut milk, dates, and raisins. Experimenting with different ingredients will keep this otherwise bland porridge more interesting. Chicken and ginger congee is a flavorful and nourishing congee recipe. Start with the ingredients in the recipe to the right:

A wide spectrum of common ailments are treated with herbs and vegetables cooked in with congee. A good source for medicinal recipes is The Book of Jook: Chinese Medicinal Porridges by Bob Flaws.

Congee can ease digestive disorders, inflammatory conditions, and chronic illness. Start a new healing ritual and experiment with congee.

Chicken and Ginger Congee

1.5 cups long-grain white rice

8 cups (2 quarts) chicken stock or broth

4 cups water

4 quarter-size slices of fresh ginger

¼ cup minced ginger

6 scallions- 2 whole, 4 thinly sliced

2 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, cut into 1-inch pieces


Chopped roasted peanuts, soy sauce, toasted sesame oil and hot sauce, for serving


In a slow cooker, combine the rice, stock, water, sliced ginger, and whole scallions. Cover and cook on high, stirring occasionally, until the rice has broken down and is soupy, about 4 hours.

Next, pick out and discard the ginger and whole scallions. Stir the chicken into the congee. Cover and cook on high, stirring a few times, until the chicken is white throughout (about 15 minutes).

Season the congee with salt. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with minced ginger, sliced scallions, peanuts, soy sauce, sesame oil and hot sauce at the table.

Congee can be refrigerated overnight. Reheat gently, whisking well to break up any lumps.

Bay View resident Aleisha Anderson, L.Ac. is the clinic director and acupuncturist at Mke MindBody Wellness, an integrative wellness center with holistic therapies focused on mental health. More information:

Disclaimer: The information provided in this column is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for medical advice or care.

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